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The following blog appeared in the March 12 , 2012 edition of The NY Report (http://www.nyreport.com/articles/82785/the_ins_and_outs_of_mandatory_automatic_enrollment_in_health_plans)…

Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), U.S. employers—specifically companies with 200 or more full-time employees covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—have felt its effects, with an average of two percent increase in enrollment.

One of the more significant issues at hand is that employers sponsoring one or more health plans and employing 200 or more full-time employees (defined as employees working, on average, 30 hours per week) are required to establish an automatic enrollment program for their group health plans. This automatic enrollment program is to be used to enroll new full-time employees and re-enroll current employees.

Of all the employer-related reform provisions included in the PPACA, auto-enrollment seems to be causing the most headaches. Implementation creates novel administrative challenges for employers. To start with, there is a disclosure notice requirement to be distributed to all employees at the time of hiring (or no later than March 1, 2013 for current employees), informing them of their automatic enrollment in the plan and their ability to opt out of any coverage in which the individual or employee was automatically enrolled.

Further, the notice should include, but is not limited to, information on who is covered, how it works, the consequences of not making an affirmative election, and any rights employees have to make changes once they have been automatically enrolled in a plan. The Department of Labor (DOL) is still expected to issue detailed guidance on these and other requirements.

The law does not yet contain an express effective date; we must wait until the DOL issues implementing regulations, which the DOL intends to complete by 2014.  Fortunately, automatic enrollment does not apply to all grandfathered health plans. 

With this being said, one key consequence of the automatic enrollment mandate for new full-time employees who do not affirmatively opt-out of coverage will likely lead to some employees being enrolled even though they do not want or need the coverage. However, it appears from the mandate that these employees will have the right to opt-out retroactively, although it is not clear whether employees will be permitted to drop coverage altogether, or switch from the employer’s default coverage to other plan options.

Employers are already considering how to manage the cost of the auto-enrollment requirement. Those that currently offer only one medical plan may simply use their current plan as the default plan for auto-enrolling new full-time employees. However, others may add a new, lower-cost plan to use as the default plan, while others may consider changing to a new, lower-cost plan for all employees.

With the amount of vagueness around the essential details of the automatic enrollment mandate, we advise employers to wait until the DOL issues more guidance before implementing a new automatic enrollment program or modifying an existing one.

Employers often have legitimate reasons for punishing workers for illegal off-duty behavior, especially if it’s related to their jobs, such as theft conviction.  But disciplining staff for participating in lawful conduct outside work is a slippery slope.

Here’s the litmus test: If an employee’s off-duty activity puts your company in legal or financial jeopardy, courts will be more willing to let you regulate it.

While federal law is silent on the issue, states aren’t.  So far, 28 states and theDistrict of Columbiaprohibit employers from discriminating against workers because they smoke or participate in other “lawful activities.”

4 ways to stay out of trouble

1.  Focus on the off-duty behavior’s effects on job performance, rather than the circumstances of the conduct itself.  Be able to point to a legitimate business reason for disciplining the employee.

2.  Avoid blanket restrictions against socializing with competitors.  Such overly broad rules infringe on privacy.  Instead, protect company secrets by having employees sign nondisclosure agreements.

3.  Check your state’s rules and seek legal advice before firing or disciplining an employee for off-duty activity.

4.  Apply an even hand.  Don’t suspend one employee for off-work behavior and then ignore another similar circumstance.

 

If you have questions concerning this, or any other Human Resource issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

The second part of the Wage Theft Prevention Act mandate came due on February 1st, requiring allNew York Stateemployers to prepare an annual wage notice for every one of their employees.  Not a simple task, costing employers time and money. 

Fortunately, the state Senate may be coming to their senses, and are getting ready to vote to repeal this Act.  Prestige is urging you to reach out to your Assembly members, state Senators and the Governor to repeal this unnecessary annual pay notice requirement by clicking the link below to log in and send your message:
http://www.votervoice.net/link/target/bcnys/rcy8JRN9.aspx

 

Another Monday.  There never seems to be enough time in the day to get things done.  Experts say that you need only 30 minutes to plan your entire week.  How to do it?  Follow the OATS formula:

O:  Objectives.

What results do you want to see by the end of the week?  Write them down and rank them.

A:  Activities.

What do you have to do to achieve your goals?  List the necessary activities, and put them in sequence.

T:  Time.       

How much time will each activity require?  To plan realistically, allow yourself more time than you think you will actually need.  This gives you flexibility if unexpected problems develop.

S:  Schedule.

Look at your calendar and decide when you can do each activity.  Most people underestimate the power of a schedule, but you won’t get anything accomplished if you don’t schedule time to do it.

And, here’s a bonus suggestion:

Time-management experts recommend setting aside an hour a day to make and return your phone calls.  But which hour?  The best times of the day are the first two hours of the morning and the last two hours of the afternoon.  That’s when most people are in the office and accessible by phone.

The following article appeared on www.incbeat.com (February 9, 2012)

In this down economy, outsourcing non-core business functions is an effective way to manage costs. With that in mind, if you own a small-to-medium sized business, it may be to your benefit to utilize the services of a professional employer organization, or PEO.  By outsourcing your human resources, you can eliminate much of the overhead associated with hiring, providing benefits, and ensuring compliance.

Co-Employment Defined

Typically, when a business contracts the services of a PEO, employees are hired under a co-employment agreement.  With this arrangement, the PEO acts as the administrative employer and the business acts as the work site employer.  In other words, the PEO becomes the employer of record for tax and insurance purposes.  They are also the company responsible for paying wages, providing insurance, handling paperwork, and ensuring proper procedures are followed.  The business is responsible for keeping track of hours worked and controlling the daily activities of employees.

This helps medium-to-small sized business because they can reduce time spent on administrative tasks and take advantage of economies of scale that would not otherwise be open to them.

What Are the Benefits?

There are a number of reasons that businesses might want to outsource their HR functions. With a PEO partner, businesses can focus on revenue-generating tasks rather than spending time and money building a human resource management department.  If needed, a PEO company can even take care of hiring and training new employees, which can eliminate the need for running ads and conducting initial interviews.

Since a PEO’s main focus is providing quality HR services to a variety of clients, often the HR services that are offered are more comprehensive than those that could be offered by the company itself. The PEO can often offer a better benefits package than the business itself, which benefits the employee and makes the business a more attractive place to work for top talent.

Is a PEO Right for Your Business?

A PEO offers a number of substantial advantages to smaller businesses that can help them stay competitive with larger corporations.  Many find that partnering in this way helps them stay focused on core competencies, and thus increase profits while lowering expenses.  A PEO can also help ensure legal compliance and improved risk management.

This type of co-employment relationship can help your business get ahead of the competition by providing a number of benefits for your company and your employees. Whether a PEO is a good decision for your business is something that you should consider.

Even in this day of penny-pinching, few CEOs understand how much money their companies lose by failing to retain key employees.  Examples: Replacing an HR Manager in the automotive industry can cost $133,803.  A machine-works company that loses a skilled, salaried machinist can lose $102,796 from its bottom line.  And the loss of a store manager costs a fast-food chain $21,931.

 Now, here’s your chance to calculate the cost of losing one of your company’s stars.  Select a job function with a lot of turnover.  Calculate the full cost of that function by entering the average wage for that position on Line 1 and then multiplying it by 130 percent to include benefits costs.

 Next, multiply the total wage by 25 percent.  This cost per employee may then be multiplied by the number of ex-employees on Line 6 to arrive at the total cost of turnover in this position.

 HERE ARE THE STEPS: 

  1. Annual wage

 

 $

  1. Gross-up for benefits

X 1.30

 

  1. Total wage

 

 $

  1. Turnover cost

X .25

 

  1. Cost per employee

 

 $

  1. Ex-employees

X

 

  1. Total turnover cost

 

 $

 HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: 

  1. Store manager salary

 

$    67,480

  1. Gross-up for benefits

X 1.30

 

  1. Total wage

 

$    87,724

  1. Turnover cost

X .25

 

  1. Cost per employee

 

$    21,931

  1. Ex-employees

X

          10

  1. Total turnover cost

 

$   219,310

One of the toughest challenges facing employers today is how to discipline employees.  Following these steps serve as an informal test employers can use to see if the discipline they are imposing is appropriate.

1. Notice:  Did the employer forewarn the employee in a handbook?

Prestige requires all employees to sign an acknowledgement form upon receipt of the handbook.  If you do not have a handbook, contact your HR Specialist immediately.

2. Reasonableness:  Was the rule reasonably related to the orderly, efficient and safe operation of the business?

Keep in mind that what is reasonable depends on the nature of the business and the transgression.  Contact Human Resources if you need further guidance.

3. Investigation:  Before administering discipline, did the employer make an effort to discover whether the employee did, in fact, violate or disobey a rule?

You must prove the investigation conducted was fair, complete, and done before imposing a decision.  Prestige recommends we conduct investigations on your behalf.

4. Fair and objective:  Was the investigation conducted fairly and objectively?

Can you prove you considered all the facts?

5. Proof:  Did the employer obtain sufficient evidence that the employee was guilty as charged?

Obviously, direct and irrefutable evidence is the best proof.  However, circumstantial evidence also works.

6. Equal treatment:  Has the employer applied its rules, orders and penalties evenhandedly and without discrimination?

This is the nondiscrimination test.  However, if an employee is entitled to reasonable accommodation the employer must make a careful, proactive examination of the job requirements and the employee’s needs.  Prestige can provide guidance concerning what is considered “reasonable accommodation”.

7. Appropriate penalty:  Was the degree of discipline reasonably related to the seriousness of offense and the employee’s record?

In other words, does the penalty fit the crime?

 

If you have questions concerning this, or any other Human Resource issues,

contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

The following blog appeared in the January 24, 2012 edition of The NY Report (http://nyreport.com/new_york_state_wage_theft_prevention_act)…

In 2010, the powers that be in Albany passed the New York State Wage Theft Prevention Act, requiring employers to notify new employees hired after Oct. 26, 2009, in writing of their: (1) regular pay rate and, if applicable, rate of overtime pay; and (2) regular pay date.  Beginning April 9, 2011, however, the act required this written notice to be provided both at the time of hire and to all existing employees between January 1 and February 1 of each subsequent year.

Exactly who does this law benefit?

It certainly does not benefit business owners, who face stiff penalties for wage, notice and recordkeeping violations.

In addition to the six-page Frequently Asked Questions, Guidelines and Instructions, this notice must be provided to all employees in English and the language identified by the employee as his or her primary language (the form is readily available in Chinese, Korean and Spanish).

But wait, there’s more…

There are actually seven different forms, depending on whether each employee is paid an Hourly Rate; Multiple Hourly Rates; a Weekly Rate or Salary for a Fixed Number of Hours (40 or fewer in a week); a Salary for Varying Hours, Day Rate, Piece Rate, Flat Rate or Other Non-Hourly Pay; for Prevailing Rate and Other Jobs and; finally, for Exempt Employees.

These stringent new requirements for all New York employers stipulate that they must obtain a signed and dated written acknowledgment from the employee confirming receipt that contains an affirmation by the employee that he or she accurately identified his or her primary language and received the notice in that language. The acknowledgment must be maintained by the employer for six years.

Simple (and not so simple) Math

According to the most recent US Census Bureau data, there are more than 7.3 million people employed in New York State.  That means that more than 51 million pages of paper are needed to comply with this law.  That is more than 600 trees.  Then there are the man-hours to process these forms, postage, and storage (physical and/or electronic) costs.

But if you act now…

It isn’t too late to do something about this.  On behalf of allNew YorkStateemployers, we urge you to contact your State Senators and ask them to consider repealing, or at least modifying, the New York State Wage Theft Prevention Act.  And, if you are totally confused as to how to be compliant with the law, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, your outsourced Human Resources company, who can help you.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the general way of thinking that dominated society by speaking against the hateful practice of racial discrimination.  He motivated millions to stand up against the social mores that allowed the mistreating of an entire segment of the population.  It is fair to say that our country would not be where we are today were it not for what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did in the fight for basic human rights.

However, there is still enormous inequality in theUnited Statesand throughout the world.  There is still inequality among races and, more and more, there is inequality in wealth and living standards.   Now is the time to merge Dr. King’s Dream and the American Dream into a single Dream of a better future — one of optimism, success and respect for everyone.

The holiday season is behind us and so it’s back to work once again.  The summer seems so far away and it is easy for employees to feel a bit down in the dumps.  One of a manager’s most important jobs is to keep spirits up in the workplace.  With stress levels in Corporate America at an all-time high, this isn’t always easy to do.  However, there are some strategies you can use that will get the job done – without hurting your budget.

* Sponsor a “Noon Movie.”  Once a week (depending on employee schedules), set up a DVD player in the breakroom and show a funny movie during lunch.  If time is limited, show reruns of “The Office” or other situation comedies.

* Set up a “Humor Corner.”  Designate one section of the office as the place for humor, and encourage employees to post cartoons, jokes, or other funny material.

* Get out of the office!  Whenever possible, hold meetings outside the office – at the coffee shop down the street or at a local restaurant.  If weather permits, don’t be afraid to hold meetings outside from time to time.

* Liven up your memos.  By a book of one-liners, and include a joke at the bottom of your memos.

* Run a “Guess the Baby” contest.  Ask the staff to bring in baby photos and post them on a wall.  Award a free lunch to the employee who can guess who’s who.

* Have “Late Day Mondays.”  If possible, once a month allow your employees to arrive an hour late on a Monday morning – or leave an hour early on a Friday.

* Take pictures!  Every office has an aspiring photographer.  Ask that person to take candid shots of employees, and add them to the “Humor Corner.”

* Play with the dress code.  If your culture allows it, hold an “Ugly Tie,” “Ugly Pants,” or “Ugly Sweater” day.  Award prizes for the “winners.”

* Bring your smile to work.  You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.  If the manager consistently has an upbeat attitude, the staff will as well.